Preparing For Eventualities
While the previous posts in this series looked at how an event can be best serviced and executed through a partnership with your AV vendor, we should now look at how to prepare for changing scenarios that may throw off those original plans. For example, as we look back at the COVID-19 pandemic as well as large-scale adverse weather, we can see that contingency planning allowed the meetings industry to function and thrive during these periods. Meeting planners and associations that had partnerships with AV and IT service providers were able to develop and present virtual and hybrid events, webcasts, conferences and tradeshows. By leveraging these partnerships, technology stacks and knowledge base, partners such as AV-AMERICA were able to replicate several elements of an in-person conference. Despite sudden cancellations, AV-AMERICA presented conferences in a virtual or hybrid format, allowing the presenters, attendees and event planners to participate safely and in an immersive manner.
Through a partnership where the AV vendor is brought into the planning process at an early stage, they can help the meeting planners anticipate, plan for and provide solutions to various potential eventualities. By investing in the success of the event rather than providing a la carte equipment and services, the AV vendor is able to help assure that changes at any point and at almost any scale can be dealt with quickly. Perhaps most importantly, the pricing for such changes is made transparent at an early planning stage, allowing the event planning and budgeting committee to make decisions about risk mitigation (such as having backup equipment, labour and contingency plans in place). This avoids the scenario of ordering duplicates of multiple pieces of equipment that may not have the same risk scale, of trying to order last minute items which may not be in stock, or of trying to find skilled personnel during busy periods.
Contingency planning can be accomplished through a few key steps that outline risks, identify potential solutions, and setting up trigger criteria for various scenarios.
Depending on the scale of the event and the components involved, the list of potential risks can be simple or very expansive. The AV partner will be able to help evaluate the overall show design, and rank the risks of various pieces, such as a sudden change in presenters, equipment failures, venue failures (such as bad/dirty power or limited loading access), and platform failures for virtual events. Through this ranking process, the criticality of each piece is made clear, allowing for the meeting planners to decide which elements the event cannot run without, and which could be foregone if something changes. It’s also worth noting that the AV partner will also aim for the show’s success in all aspects and will identify strong recommendations on some contingency items (such as backup power for an important keynote presentation, or a backup webcast in case of adverse weather preventing attendees from arriving).
Identifying Potential Solutions
Once the risks are identified, your AV partner will be able to present various alternative solutions to any potential issues. As both criticality and cost may be factors in identifying which solution to go with, the partner will lay these out clearly in an easy-to-understand format. Here are a few examples of solutions to various potential changes:
- A keynote speaker may not be able to confirm until very close to the conference what their AV requirements might be. By planning to have equipment available to accommodate any eventuality, this portion of the event can be guaranteed to go well.
- A panelist may not be able to attend for a plenary session but may be able to participate remotely. In this case, the AV partner will strive to show the remote person alongside the in-person speakers in an interactive fashion.
- The event agenda may have some potential changes such as an increase in breakout sessions. While equipment may be easily accounted for, the AV partner may suggest having floating technicians who can assist on multiple fronts.
- A major weather event may prevent a significant portion of the attendees being able to make it to the event. If the messaging for the event is very critical and time-sensitive, the AV partner could have a webinar or webcast on quick standby, for access by these attendees.
Setting Trigger Criteria
Once the solutions are in place, the AV partner can help lay out a cost-conscious timeline prior to the start of the event on how risks can be mitigated based on changes to the event. For instance, booking extra floating labour can be held to a deadline to ensure the availability of technicians. Similarly, planning for the distribution of recorded content after the event in the case of major eventualities such as a change in venue, could mean having a recording crew and equipment included in the quote as an available option until a particular cut-off time in the event planning process.
Planning for these eventualities accomplish several key things: they allow the event to be executed in a professional manner regardless of circumstance, they ensure that the presenters and audience have the best possible experience and go home looking forward to a future follow-up event, and they provide peace of mind to the event planners, sponsors and those in charge of budgeting. By removing the spectre of what-ifs and unexpected costs, the AV partnership will help ensure that the quality of the event remains stellar.